Getting out of the blocks fast

It was with great sadness that I watched Usain Bolt end his amazing career with a slow bronze in London the week before last. Having just returned to the UK after relocating my family from Australia ( hence my blog silence) it was sad to see - as it always is - when any sporting icon begins to lose their position of total dominance. Bolt is famous for starting slowly but quickly picking up pace to steam ahead of the field. Sir Alex Ferguson always said that if Manchester United FC were in 4th or 5th spot by Christmas, then they had a good chance of winning the title because they always finished the season so strongly. So, with that said, does it matter if you have a slow start to the year and slip behind target? 

Absolutely.

As I’ve blogged about in the past, the key to any fast-growing business is momentum. Once you have momentum, it takes a life of its own. It doesn’t matter if you're bootstrapping your business or using investor capital, one of the best ways to build momentum is to get out ahead of your target and if your revenue is ahead of target, it starts to have a positive effect on the entire business ( and not just the sales people). Suddenly everything seems possible, everyone is in a great mood, smiling, laughing and most importantly, finding solutions to all the little problems – it drives a ‘can do’ attitude. The whole business has a spring in its step. So, the earlier in the year you can get ahead, the better.  The tough part - how do you do it?

The first thing is to be realistic – you can’t drive yourself/ your sales people to a year-end figure and then 24 hours later, at the start of the new year, expect them to come flying out of the blocks. Unlike in premiership football where the players have had 3 months off to rest between seasons, the financial year finishes on Friday and the next one starts on Monday – there is no downtime! Like many things, it all comes down to planning. First you need to finish the year that was. Just like at the end of the calendar year, you should celebrate the year you’ve just had. Whether it was great, mediocre or a car crash of a year, you need to draw a line under it, make sure everyone knows that you appreciate how hard they have all worked and psychologically reset for the new year.

Secondly you need to be on the front foot. From Day #1 of the new year you need to have everyone’s targets done and agreed to by each individual, sales remuneration, incentives, reporting lines, all of it finalised and ready to go. Agreement with each individual is key.If you force a target onto someone who fundamentally disagrees with it, you’re setting both they and you up to fail. Make sure they have all had a two-way performance review, aired grievances, discussed shortcomings and set KPIs and development goals. Make sure you also have any replacements already in place, any promotions confirmed and any dismissals out of the way. There’s nothing worse than seeing an organisation approaching the end of the first quarter and the sales team still isn’t functioning properly because they don’t have their new targets, there are gaps in the team and people haven’t been replaced; it feels and looks listless. Sales teams thrive on energy, so don’t deprive them of it.

Finally, don’t ease up. If you’re the one driving the sales team, there’s a clear and obvious temptation to give yourself and them a mental break. The year has just finished, you’re all exhausted, you’ve got almost 12 months to get to target again, so the temptation is to relax and start slowly – fight it! The reality is people do have to have time off to recuperate and relax, but be smart about it – stagger it, let those ahead of target go on leave early so they’re back and ready to go on day 1. Even with a slimmed down team at the start of the year, make sure you hit the ground running, don’t ease up on their metrics – the extra work you do now in driving them will reap huge benefits when everyone is back on deck and you’re ahead at the end of the first quarter. Once you’re ahead, that’s when you can relax. Most importantly – set the targets correctly. There’s no point setting a low target just so everyone can be ahead at the end of Q1. That outcome means the business isn’t realising its full potential. Set ambitious targets but ones that are just - and only just - within reach. Then when you hit them and get ahead, you’ll really feel like the whole company all has a spring in its step!

If you like this blog, find it useful, or think it’s interesting, please share it and if you have any questions at all please feel free to get in touch – I am always open to a conversation.

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